The employment minister, Mark Hoban, assured MPs on Tuesday: "There are no league tables in place. We do not set targets for sanctions. I have made that point in previous discussions."
A leaked email, however shows staff being warned by a manager that they will be disciplined unless they increase the number of claimants referred to a tougher benefit regime.
[Question: Could anyone at the Department of Work and Pensions find their backside, using both hands, in ten minutes, with a map and clues?]
I have worked for the DWP, albeit briefly (thank heavens), and my honest opinion is that probably 'no, they could not'. Any of the original staff who actually did know what they were doing (and there were some) have either moved on, or retired.
I've never worked for such a chaotic shambolic organisation in my life. I've never worked with so many people who really had no clue what they were doing.
This ineptitude appears to reach up to the dizzy heights of the DWP ministerial floor.
How incredibly embarrassing for Hoban to have given an assurance, and reminded critics that this was not the first time he had been obliged to give this assurance, that no such targets were set, and then for an email to come to light showing that, guess what... he was fibbing.
Just a small part of the email which has been leaked shows what kind of an organisation we are dealing with here.
"Our district manager is not pleased … because senior managers are under pressure to improve our office output and move up the league he has to apply some pressure downwards." She continues: "Guys, we really need to up the game here. The 5% target is one thing – the fact that we are seeing over 300 people a week and only submitting six of them for possible doubts is simply not quite credible."
"Obviously if I am on a PIP [performance improvement plan] to improve my team's Stricter Benefit Regime referral rate I will not have a choice but to consider implementing PIPs for those individuals who are clearly not delivering SBR within the team."
These people's business are other people's lives. I'm all for sanctions being applied, but not to fit some sort of target to keep the management bonuses afloat.
The email writer says that she is looking for a target of 25 people a week to be sanctioned. To save her bacon.
Some time ago a newspaper, I think it was the Guardian, did a report about how JC+ managers were dealing with the fact that they have targets to get people off benefits, but that in many, if not most, areas there simply weren't any jobs. So, inventive staff had to find other ways of avoiding disciplinary procedures, and to get their claim count down, they had to apply incredibly strict rules, like anyone being late for their appointments would be disallowed for 6 weeks, anyone failing to apply for a suggested job, no matter how unsuitable, would be disallowed... etc.
The DWP denied this too, just like they denied that ATOS had targets...
No wonder they managed to make such a mess of the slave labour programme and had to have the law changed to avoid recompensing unemployed people who prefer to be employees rather than slaves.